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The city is not innocent: homelessness and the value of urban parks

Speer, Jessie ORCID: 0000-0003-1636-803X and Goldfischer, Eric (2020) The city is not innocent: homelessness and the value of urban parks. Capitalism, Nature, Socialism, 31 (3). 24 - 41. ISSN 1045-5752

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Identification Number: 10.1080/10455752.2019.1640756


This paper builds on contemporary memoirs of homelessness from cities across the United States to develop a more nuanced understanding of the use value of urban parks and green spaces. Based on analysis of over seventy memoirs, we synthesize the writings of nine memoirists who examine their relationship to green spaces in cities. Instead of framing nature as something pristine and distinct from society—or something dangerous and untamed—these writings portray urban green spaces as sites of belonging and everyday life. In the US today, cities often either value parks as playgrounds for middle-class leisure or devalue them as targets of racialized anti-homeless policing. In both instances, parks are framed in relation to their impact on the exchange value of surrounding urban areas. In contrast, the memoirs of homelessness we examine portray parks and other green spaces as enabling privacy, survival, and emotional solace in an urban landscape often marked by surveillance, deprivation, and violence. These crucial values reveal a new conceptualization of urban parks as profoundly useful to those who are subject to the exclusions of capitalist property.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2019 The Center for Political Ecology
Divisions: Geography & Environment
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology
H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
Date Deposited: 06 Nov 2020 14:35
Last Modified: 06 Jun 2024 23:21

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